19 Isabella St., 67-69 Church St Return to the Bay Village Licensing/Planning Committee

Two projects returned to the Bay Village Licensing and Planning meeting on Dec. 17 to provide the community with design updates: the church at 19 Isabella St., and 67-69 Church St.

The Isabella St. church project presented first, with Harry Collings from New Boston told the Bay Village community that they have received some feedback based on the last presentation and their preliminary meeting with the historic district commission. Collings said that nothing has been filed with the Boston Planning and Development Agency [BPDA] yet, but next steps include having a formal hearing with the Bay Village Historic District Commission (BVHDC), and then a date can be set to appear at the Zoning Board of Appeal.

The project consists of making changes to the front of the building for accessibility, and creating an addition  to turn the church into condos. Jim Alexander of Finegold Alexander, the architecture firm for the project, said that while the original design had a heavy railing system, the details of the railings are “very consistent with what is currently there.” As was presented at the BVHDC, the proposal now includes the lowering of the center door for accessibility, with the stairs to the side doors remaining. Alexander said that they are looking more closely at the detailing of the windows throughout the church, and the addition cannot be seen from Isabella Street. David Goldman from New Boston Ventures added that per suggestion from the BVHDC, the existing church doors on the front of the facade will be fixed open, with the new doors behind them.

The finish for the addition could be a metal panel with a dull finish, or a cementitious panel that would have a soft finish in the gray family, though nothing has been officially chosen yet. Goldman also said that any color decisions will have to go through the BVHDC and the BPDA for final approval.

Alexander said they received comments that the color of the rear of the church was too dark, so they’ve introduced a lighter color. There will also be a roof deck and livable space on the roof of the building, but it will be set back from the edge, and all of the sills will be lowered.

Some community members were concerned with the harshness in color change and appearance from the addition to the historic church. “We don’t want to mimic the historic building with the addition,” Goldman said. This is by no means a final evolution,” he added. “This is a direction.”

Bay Village Licensing and Planning Committee member Sarah Herlihy said she would like to see better renderings of the buildings, as the shadow on the top of the building in the pictures that represents the roof deck is “deceiving.”

“I don’t think you’re there yet with those materials that you’re using,” she added. “I just don’t think this is there yet.”

The general community feeling at the end of the presentation was that the front of the building was executed very well, but the side of the back facade is too bold and would need to be scaled back. Goldman said that he would like to have a smaller working group of community members to work with the architects on the details.

At 67-69 Church St., where restaurant Erbaluce sits (for a few more weeks), architect Anthony Piermarini presented his proposal to the Committee for the third time. Attorney Marc LaCasse said that since they were here last, a Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services abutters meeting was held regarding the project. He added that after approval from the BVNA, the project can move to the Zoning Board of Appeal, which he said wouldn’t happen until at least February. “Once zoning relief is obtained, we can go to the landmarks for their approval,” he said.

The project at 67-69 Church St. consists of a four-and-a-half story building with commercial space on the ground floor and residential units above. It has been presented to the staff at the BVHDC, as well as preliminarily to the BPDA, according to Piermarini. He said that they are looking to restore the historic base of the building and open it up to the street, as well as put windows in the recessed brick locations on the side of the facade.

“That whole corner gets new treatment at the top,” Piermarini said. He said that the plans have not changed since the last presentation, and they are hoping to weave the new addition with the historic restoration. They are proposing a warm metal palette for the addition. The party wall side will have antiqued bronze panels with a patina look, Piermarini said.

The half-story head-house on top of the fourth story is angled towards Shawmut Street, and remains a point of contention with abutters whose view the head-house will block. Sarah Herlihy said that she also does not agree with the half-story.

Gaye Bok of the BVNA said that she thinks this building is too tall, and since Erbaluce is leaving anyway, wondered why the bottom floor can’t be used for condos instead of restaurant space.

Bok was told by the team that they need a certain amount of sellable square footage to cover the cost of the “expensive restoration,” and condos on the first floor won’t be sellable because they’ll be right on the street. The development team believes that having a restaurant there will bring the street to life and allow for more glass and larger windows than what currently exists.

The BVNA will continue to have discussions with the development team and the community regarding both of these projects.

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